A Travellerspoint blog

November 2009

Downtime and Good Books

A Short Discussion of Great Traveling Books

I'm in between trips right now. In two months, I'll hopefully be in or on my way to Montana for 2 months of skiing. Until then, I'm stuck in Duluth, watching it get colder and darker everyday. I am enjoying late fall around here though. Lately, I've been taking my morning coffee down on the shores of Lake Superior. I like sipping hot, excellent coffee while watching the dawn over the lake. I feel good, and it's a great way to start my day. I also shouldn't say "stuck". I can leave at anytime, it's just that I've chosen to hang around for awhile to save some money, and to research my upcoming journey. This downtime gives me a chance to write, and I'm looking forward to it, as I've 8 years of material to possibly write about.

I don't plan on writing a trip by trip monologue for every trip. That would get old fast, for everyone but myself. I want to write about some moments from over the years. I also want to talk about books, and road food. Two of my favorite subjects.

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I guess I'll start with books. I love to read, and I like having access to libraries once again (Duluth has an excellent one). On the road, I have a stock pile of books I've collected. I take as many as I can, but they have to fit into a 1.5' by 10" by 7" plastic container (when living out of a van, you need to keep clutter to a minimum). When I've finished a boxful, I try to find the nearest town with a paperback exchange to flush out the old and bring in the new. These stores are usually small, but crammed with cheap books, and it's like being a kid in a candystore (to use an old cliche). I like cheap bookstores. Powell's in Portland, Oregon is the best bookstore I've ever been to. It takes up an entire city block with four stories of knowledge. Highly recommended. I've also found good exchanges in Los Osos, CA, Benson, AZ and Mena, AR. Before leaving on a trip I also fill up my mp3 player full of books from the library. I can also access their electronic library over the internet on the road. A very nice feature.

So now let us talk about great reading material for the road. Some of my favorite books are as follows (in no particular order).

Blue Highways and River Horse by William Least-Heat Moon
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
Coyote Nowhere by John Holt
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
On The Road and The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
American Nomads by Richard Grant
Deep Survival: who lives, who dies and why by Laurence Gonzales
Into the wild by Jon Krakauer
The Endurance by Caroline Alexander
Down the Great Unknown by Edward Dolnick

The list could go on and on, but these 12 books are my favorites. In fact, I can't decide which one I like best, as they are fantastic reads. If you have any recommendations along the same lines, let me know. I'm always up for a good read. If I had to chose two to bring with me, I'd choose American Nomads and Deep Survival. Deep Survival should be read by everybody who ventures outside.

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Two of my favorite pastimes.

Posted by Rhombus 15:39 Archived in USA Tagged books Comments (0)

Welcome to my World

Some background in how I travel, my travel history, my viewpoints on life.

I'm a traveler. I love the unknown. I love to look at maps and plan routes and imagine what's out there. I find myself grinning happily when I'm driving on a road I've never been on before. When I'm traveling I like to see what's along the way, and not just try to get to another location as quickly as possible. I tend to drive the back roads. I like seeing small town america, and the pride that they have in their towns. I don't like freeways. They are too fast, no place to pull over and check out a view, and boring. I've taken full advantage of our nation's parks. I've visited countless National parks, forests and monuments, not to mention hundreds of state parks, some of which rival national parks for scenic beauty. I travel mostly in the winter and work in the summer. I find that by traveling in the winter, you'll find most of the parks you visit to be virtually deserted. I love walking through deserted national parks, having the place to myself. For me, it's the only way to go.

I love my life style. I made up my mind some years ago that I'd never again work through the whole year. What's to be gained by it? A box filled with stuff that you don’t have time to use. I much prefer to work part of the year, save up my money, and take the rest of the year off. Two weeks of vacation is not enough. American's have screwed up their priorities, in my mind. Life is too short to spend it working your fingers to the bone.

So for the last 8 years, I've taken 1 to 3 month long road trips throughout the United States and Canada. Both of these countries are made for road trips. They have such a diverse landscape, population and eco-system, you'll never run out of things to see and places to visit. It's not that I don't want to travel abroad, it's just that I've needed to make the most of my time and money. It's relatively cheap to travel around the US for months on end. I also enjoy it immensly. In a 3 month trip you can ski in the mountains, go tide pooling, hike in a rainforest, rock climb down in the desert, and enjoy the great outdoors the whole way.

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I usually have at least 3 trips on the burner, so to speak. I try to have 1 short trip, and 2 long extened trips that I'm thinking about. For instance, right now I have plans of visiting my nephew who lives 300 miles away on a weekend trip. This one is short term, and doesn't require much planning or thought. I also have definite plans for 2 months of skiing in Montana followed by a 2 month road trip to the desert southwest. This will begin in January. Finally, I have a long term, far out trip for next fall of either going to Ireland, or a roadtrip through the rockies leading me to Yosemite. This is how I plan my goals. They are all travel related, and it gives me something to work for. "Work to live, not live to work."

Traveling costs money. So I have to work to make my trips possible. I've made sacrifices so I can travel as extensively as I do. My bills are minimal. I only have one bill to pay every month (my cell phone). I usually rent only 2 months out of the year. I also try to save up more money than I have budgeted for a trip, for future savings. I have a minimal amount of stuff. I have the toys I use, and a few personal affects that I can't part with. Read Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, by Rolf Potts. This book helped inspire me to leave my conventional life behind, and gave good advice on how to make extensive travel possible.

Why am I blogging? For a couple of reasons. I think I lead an interesting life, and I want to share these experiences with you. I also want to become a better writer. A great way to get better at something is to practice. I also wanted to join a travel community, to see what other people are up to, get ideas, see places, and maybe meet some of them along the way. So with that, I welcome you to my world. Please feel free to comment, ask questions, or start discussions.

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I think Tolkien said it best: "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to." ~The Fellowship of the Ring.

Posted by Rhombus 08:56 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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